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Patriots hoping for a running start against Seahawks

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- To run or not to run, that is the Super Bowl XLIX question for the Patriots offense.

Heading into a matchup with Seattle's No. 1 overall defense and No. 3 unit against the run, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the rest of the offensive minds in New England have spent nearly two weeks coming up with a plan of attack to pursue an elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy.

As Belichick himself put it midway through the season in a blowout win buoyed by the rushing attack in Indy, New England can win games in different ways.

That offensive versatility has been on full display this postseason. The divisional round comeback victory over the Ravens saw the Patriots rush for just 14 yards on 13 attempts as the team never really even tried to run the football. No player other than Brady ran in the second half comeback, as the quarterback attempted 51 passes in the win.

That came in a game against a defense with the league's No. 4 rush defense and No. 24 pass defense.

One week later the game plan was far more balanced and run-heavy in a second blowout of the Colts. New England churned out 40 rushes for 177 yards. Seven days after having just 1 yard on three carries, LeGarrette Blount piled up 148 yards in the rain on 30 attempts, while Brady's passing attempts dropped to 35.

That success came in a battle with a defense that ranked 18th against the run and 12th against the pass.

Two consecutive weeks. Two wins. Two very different approaches on offense.

The Patriots didn't even try to run against a good run defense and then ran all over a suspect front.

Now the challenge is a defense that's elite against both the run and the pass.

The challenge comes in the biggest game in the world, a game that's seen safeties occur to Brady and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning on the first series in Super Bowls in recent years.

A Patriots team that hasn't scored a single point in the first quarter in five previous trips to the Super Bowl under Belichick and Brady must find a way to get things going on offense against one of the NFL's truly elite modern defenses.

And though Belichick has often said he isn't fond of running into a brick wall, or running just for the sake of running, many New England players seem to think the team will indeed try to get the ground game going early on against Seattle.

"The running game is going to set the tone. Everything is kind of gonna be based off the running game," wide receiver Danny Amendola said. "We'll get the play-action started and throw the ball a little bit. We love getting the running game going early and we'll go from there."

But saying and doing are two different things. The guys up front know that they face a major challenge in a stout, athletic, versatile Seahawks defensive front.

"I think they are really good," left tackle Nate Solder. "I think they make a lot of good plays against the run because they do a lot of shifting and moving and firing off the ball and they are real aggressive and they're not easy to block on the pass or the run."

As big a challenge as it will be, both the guys blocking and those running the ball say it comes down to the team's unofficial slogan – Do Your Job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I think it's just all about execution and everybody just doing their job," guard Dan Connolly. "The plays are drawn up to work and if everybody does their job and executes what they're supposed to do we should be successful."

"That's what I need to do, get some yards," Blount said of being ready if called upon. "I feel like I have the ability to have a big game whenever they allow me to. It's an up-and-down situation considering you have 12 on your team. When you have Tom on your team he has the ability to take over an entire game."

Amendola not only hopes his team can get things going with a running game early on Sunday against Seattle, he's also hoping that he gets the chance to get things started by returning the opening kickoff if things play out that way.

The iconic images of the flashbulbs going off at kickoff are a moment that Amendola admits would be unique experience.

"I'll be a little juiced up beforehand. Once the ball is in the air, hopefully it works out…I don't know what we're strategically trying to do yet, but I mean if you catch the opening kickoff to the Super Bowl it will be a good deal. I'll be excited for it," Amendola said. "That'll be a great experience. If it happens that way I'll be stoked."

He and the rest of the Patriots passing attack will also be stoked if the team can get the ground game churning against Seattle's impressive defensive front.

"I think we're going to do our best…we're gonna go through our…it's not going to be easy," Solder said in a tone relaying exactly how difficult that could be.

So, can the Patriots run on the Seahawks?

"I think we're going to give it our best shot," Connolly concluded.

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